Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
AN EXTREMELY RARE SET OF GERMAN ENGRAVED AND PARCEL-GILT SILVER PLAYING CARDS
PROPERTY OF A DESCENDANT OF GEN. MANUEL ORIBE OF URUGUAY
AN EXTREMELY RARE SET OF GERMAN ENGRAVED AND PARCEL-GILT SILVER PLAYING CARDS

SIGNED MICHAEL FRÖMMER, AUGSBURG, 1616

Details
AN EXTREMELY RARE SET OF GERMAN ENGRAVED AND PARCEL-GILT SILVER PLAYING CARDS
SIGNED MICHAEL FRÖMMER, AUGSBURG, 1616
A complete set of 52 cards engraved in the four Italian suits: swords, batons, cups, and coins, each suit with a king, a knight, a knave, and pip cards ace through ten; the Knave of Swords signed M. frömmer fec, the Ace of Batons dated 1616; with a tooled-leather shadowbox case set with a brass plaque engraved with provenance
Each card 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm.) high, 1 15/16 in. (5 cm.) wide (52)
Provenance
These cards, according to family tradition, were given to Josefa Oribe y Viana de Contucci, ancestor of the present owner, by Infanta Carlota Joaquina of Spain (1775-1830). Princess Carlota was daughter of King Carlos IV and, as wife of King João of Portugal, Princess of Portugal and Brazil. During Napoleonic struggles, Carlota was exiled to Brazil with the Portuguese Court. When Napoleon forced her father to abdicate in Spain, she became claimant to the throne of Spain and Spanish America. Following the patriotic revolution in Buenos Aires in 1810, she ordered Portuguese-Brazilian troops into Montevideo to protect the interests of the Spanish monarchy. Carlota's emissary in South America and the director of her military efforts there was Felipe Contucci. Carlota presented these cards to Contucci's wife, and they descended to the present owner as follows:

Doña Josefa de Oribe y Viana (b. 13 September 1789), wife of Felipe Contucci, emissary of Princess Carlota in South America

Agustina Contucci y Oribe, daughter of Doña Josefa and wife of General Manuel Ceferino de Oribe y Viana (1792-1857), President of Uruguay 1835-1838, then by direct descent to the present owner

Brought to you by

Jennifer Pitman
Jennifer Pitman

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

Condition Report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

CAPTION:
Doña Josefa Oribe y Viana de Contucci, recipient of these playing cards from Princess Carlota of Spain Oribe Family Collection

CAPTION:
The Presentation of the Pomeranian Kunstschrank to Duke Philipp II of Pomerania, by Anton Mozart, Augsburg, circa 1616. Michael Frömmer contributed a set of French-suited silver playing cards to this famous princely art cabinet.
Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz Art Resource, NY
CAPTION:
Lot 56 The King, Knight, Knave, and Ace of Batons

CAPTION:
Lot 56 Brass plaque on the case for the cards, circa 1890

CAPTION:
Lot 56 Detail, Knave of Swords, with signature of Michael Frömmer


Documentary evidence shows that silver playing cards were an essential component of the princely kunstschrank, or art cabinet, of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. These cabinets, equipped with both artificialia and naturalia, represented the world in microcosm through an array of objects representing man's artistic and scientific achievements combined with natural rarities from exotic locales. The ambitious purpose of these cabinets - to display the education, sophistication and immense wealth of their owners - perhaps overshadows another function, which was simply to delight, astonish, and entertain. Card games joined board games, trick cups, "fun-house" mirrors and other amusements in a designated area of the cabinet. The celebrated Pomeranian Kunstschrank was fitted with three decks of silver cards in French, German, and Italian suits, conveying the worldliness of the owner by his ability to entertain in three "languages." Michael Frömmer, maker of the present set, contributed the French-suited deck to the Pomeranian Kunstschrank, which like most of the known cabinets of the period, was assembled and supplied by Philipp Hainhofer (1578-1647) financier, diplomat, and art dealer of Augsburg.

Despite their popularity among noble clientele -- records show that Hainhofer had supplied silver cards to the courts of Bavaria, Tuscany, and Brunswick among others -- only five sets of silver playing cards are known to survive today. The present set is the only complete deck in existence, a remarkable survival. The two extant decks from the Pomeranian Kunstschrank are now at the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin; one of these, the Italian-suited deck, is virtually identical to the present set but was signed by engraver Paul Göttig in 1613 (missing two cards). The other, a German-suited deck, is unsigned (missing four cards). Michael Frömmer's French-suited deck is now lost, although it was photographed and published in 1905 when it was missing just two cards. A partial set of 29 German-suited cards in the Schroder Collection is thought to be Flemish or German, late 16th century. The only other known set, by Hans Pfleger of Augsburg and signed by the engraver Alexander Mair in 1594, has just 12 cards remaining, and belongs to the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels. (See: Barbara Mundt, Der Pommersche Kunstschrank, 2009, pp.249-255, figs. 31-33; Timothy Schroder, Renaissance Silver from the Schroder Collection, 2007, no. 62, pp. 188-190; Michel Ceuterick, Augsburgs Zilver in België, 1994, no. 43, pp. 102-103. The lost Frömmer set is illustrated with the other two sets from the Pomeranian Kunstschrank in Julius Lessing and Adolf Brüning, Der Pommersche Kunstschrank [im] Kgl. Kunstgewerbe-Museum, 1905, Pls. XXXIX and XL.)

More from Important Silver Including The Stuart Collection of Magnificent Regency Silver

View All
View All